The candidate for president of the MAS promises that he will rebuild the economy, in clear decline since the coup. “Deposits have decreased, the economy has dollarized again, economic activity has fallen,” said the former minister.
Luis Arce Catacora, whom some know as Arce and others as Catacora, is the man behind the successful economic model of the last 14 years in Bolivia. And that was abruptly interrupted last October, with the coup against the government of Evo Morales.
Economist, with two engineer sons and a daughter who is also about to start the Engineering career, Arce does not let herself be daunted by adversities. After the coup, on November 12 he traveled to Mexico with Morales and the deposed vice president Álvaro García Linera and, when on January 28 he returned to La Paz, his place of residence, they were waiting for him with a judicial summons.
The candidate for president for the Movement to Socialism (MAS) still expects the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to authorize his candidacy for the May 3 elections. He is convinced that it is a political issue. “They want to scare people [with the threat] that we are not going to run,” he says in an interview with PáginaI12 in a house in San Telmo, after having a meeting with the campaign manager, Evo Morales.
Arce leads the latest poll released this week with 31.6 percent of voting intention, followed by right-wing ex-president Carlos Mesa, with 17 percent and de facto president Jeanine Añez, 16.5 percent.
“The first thing we have to do is rebuild the Bolivian economy, they have destroyed it in three months,” says the candidate for the presidency of Bolivia, who is worried about what can happen from now until the elections. “Who appointed the president of the electoral tribunal, Salvador Romero? The de facto government. And this de facto government is running in this elections. Where is the transparency?” he asks. That deep concern was transmitted to Argentine President Alberto Fernández in the meeting they held before Arce returned to his country.
– It is necessary that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal still authorize his candidacy. Is it an administrative issue or is there something more substantive?
– Look, for me what is happening with this Supreme Electoral Tribunal is an eminently political issue. It wants to scrutinize absolutely everything from us. The first time they scrutinized me was last week, when they told me that I should change my affidavit of residence and what the error was. I had to put that I have resided in Bolivia for at least five years. Everything is a show. They want to scare people [with the threat] that we’re not going to run, that we don’t have the requirements to apply. And now they come with another trick. In 2018, I was a member of the board of directors of YPFB Transporte and YPFB Andina, two subsidiaries of Bolivian Fiscal Oilfields. They said I had not resigned, but they had not asked me for that requirement. When I took office in January 2019 at the Ministry of Economy again, of course I resigned both responsibilities, because it is ethically incorrect. (editorial note: Arce was Minister of Economy between 2006 and 2017, when he left office to undergo medical treatment and returned in January 2019).
– -Evo Morales’s candidacy for the Senate is still on hold.
—Yes. I don’t know the details because I don’t know what they will be watching on brother Evo. But I imagine that things are absolutely out of line. It is basically putting rocks in the way because it is a political decision. There is a political pressure not to authorize us so that the MAS does not have its candidates. We are running first in all the polls.
– What do you promise Bolivians?
– – The first thing we have to do is rebuild the Bolivian economy; they have destroyed it in three months. What is happening in my country is atrocious: deposits have decreased, the economy has dollarized again, economic activity has fallen, microentrepreneurs had their sales fall to 50 percent. We have to continue our industrialization processes, we are going to resume what we should never have stopped doing. We have to be the fastest growing economy in the region again. And continue to develop income distribution models based on our economic model.
– Evo Morales said the coup was partly due to lithium. Do you agree?
–Totally. That project had to stop and now this transitional government is negotiating a structural contract for the Bolivian economy that has to do with lithium, but not only that. We had advanced in a negotiation with a German company to settle in Bolivia and produce lithium batteries. This government undid the contract. In addition, the transitional government is negotiating a contract for volumes and prices of gas exports with Brazil. It is not a minor thing, since it will have its impact in the following years. How can that possibly be done by a transitional government? All this government had to do was call elections and it had to have been done in 120 days.
– What are you afraid of in this negotiation with Brazil?
– That is not watching out for the interests of Bolivians. Mr. Montes, who was in charge of the state-owned communication company, escaped to Miami because he raised wages and paid compensation and left. (Editorial note: Elio Montes, appointed by the de facto government, was accused of embezzlement). We have returned to the dark past, when a few families were the only ones that handled the designs of state enterprises.
– Do you think there are guarantees in Bolivia for the May 3 elections to take place?
– The de facto government appointed the president of the electoral tribunal. And this de facto government is running. Where is the transparency? It is not only for this reason that we ask for the help of international observers. We have been told that the previous tribunal a system that was vulnerable. Who can guarantee to us that the current system does not have everything they denounced? And I tell you more: this Supreme Electoral Court has eliminated the quick count, has said that it will only announce the results after ten days after the elections. Who guarantees that nothing [untword] happens there on the inside.
– I imagine there will be international observers.
– We are asking for the largest number of observers to come, but it is also important that throughout the electoral process they see what they are doing to us with these superficial and arbitrary challenges, which are not made to any other candidacy. We want them to be able to certify before the international press and the observers that the system is invulnerable. We have clear signs that the process is not transparent to all Bolivians.
– Will the OAS participate again?
– We would like other institutions specialized in electoral issues such as the Carter Foundation, that come to guarantee everything I have been saying: that the system works, that it is impartial, that someone can give us the assurance that they are treating each candidate all candidates the same, if they are doing that, and that they guarantee us transparent elections.
–When you returned to Bolivia, the Office of the Prosecutor notified you of a case against you related to the Indigenous Fund. What do they accuse you of?
– I arrived in Bolivia and before reaching migration in the airport there was already a policeman waiting for me with a notification. It is intimidation, it is political persecution. I was summoned the next day at the Prosecutor’s Office and I went. I have nothing to hide, I am not corrupt. I have done absolutely nothing wrong. There were happily people from the United Nations who realized the irregularity in the notification and the irregularity of the process. So far we have not been able to see what I am accused of.
– The last survey that was known this week indicates that you are leading the intention to vote, but that you would not avoid a second round.
– We believe we can do better. The level of voting we want goes beyond what that survey has shown us. We will continue to work humbly to achieve it. There is a greater inclination towards us by the population for everything that is happening in Bolivia: public companies have increased fares, they are putting all social policies at risk, they are not paying our income bonds that we had established as social policy; Public sector salaries and salaries are paid late -every 10th or 15th of each month- when we paid each end of the month always on time). People can not stand it. They have become accustomed to the proper management of the economy by serious and responsible people who know what they are doing. Therefore that will translate into a greater vote for us. And I say more: there is a hidden vote. You walk the streets of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, La Paz and people are fearful. If you say you will vote for the MAS, they fault you for being seditious, they persecute you, they attack you. That happens. So the people are afraid and if they ask them, they won’t tell you they will vote for MAS. There is a hidden vote as happened in 2005 with the then presidential candidate Evo Morales. When people were afraid and we got 54 percent; the polling had us at not even 30 percent.
Featured image: Image by Adrián Pérez
Translated by JRE/